Eyes of Society: Art, Traditional Knowledge, and the Watchmen of Haida Gwaii

Starting: June 15th, 2018 — Ending: Sept 30th, 2018

Photo: Looking Around and Blinking House – design by Robert Davidson, painted by Reg Davidson. Photo – Joseph Crawford.

Exhibit Location: The Robert Bateman Centre, Victoria, BC

Eyes of Society: Art, Traditional Knowledge, and the Watchmen of Haida Gwaii, is a collection of over thirty works of art by ten Haida and non-indigenous artists. Coming from different regional and cultural backgrounds in Canada, all the artists explore the meaning of ‘sense of place’ on the islands of Haida Gwaii through their own artistic traditions. Through their art, language and beliefs, they investigate the notion that artists, traditionally, have been the “eyes of society.” 

For indigenous communities like Haida Gwaii, art has long been a vehicle for the transmission of traditional knowledge and values from one generation to the next. Traditional forms and representational imagery convey the stories of the people, enabling the continuity of a shared identity, which defines the group and provides social cohesion.

What can the “Watchmen of Haida Gwaii” teach the rest of us about our relationship with our own land, the place we identify as home? What suitable context can we adopt to define the relationship between First Nations and the non-indigenous peoples, who jointly inhabit this land and rely on artists from all backgrounds to be the “eyes of society?”

The exhibit conversation starts with the 2016 short documentary Eyes of Society, which documents the kayak trip of 6 artists travelling from the Haida village sites of T’aanuu to SG̱ang Gwaay Llanagaay. It is an opportunity to present together First Nations and non-indigenous artists from different backgrounds an exploration of the meaning of ‘place’ through difference artistic ways of seeing. What results is a diverse collection of work representing a cross-section of Canada’s diverse population. Each of the artists reflects his or her own experience of Haida Gwaii and, through an examination of core Haida traditional knowledge and values, establishes a common ground towards a shared future.

Eyes of Societyfeatures the artwork of April White, Anja Karisik, Sophie Lavoie, Jim Hart, Gwaai Edenshaw, Jaalen Edenshaw, Gary Landon, Andrew Sookrah, W. David Ward, and Robert Bateman. The exhibit will also feature the documentary Eyes of Societyby Joe Crawford and Allison Smith of Braid Films.

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